A collective gasp reverberated through the internet community as Benh Zeitlin‘s name was announced among the nominated Best Directors at this year’s Oscars. It perhaps took a second to realize that a slate of names that includes Zeitlin, Ang Lee, and Steven Spielberg (along with outside contenders Michael Haneke and David O. Russell) left no room for perceived frontrunners Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck. That realization quickly became the talking point of this year’s Oscar nominations announcement.
Following Director’s Guild citations for Bigelow and Affleck, along with a slew of critical support, their omission in this year’s Best Director slate is particularly unexpected. The political implications of Bigelow’s absence are twofold – as the only female director to have won a Best Director Oscar (2009’s The Hurt Locker), one could have assumed that the proximity of her previous win handicapped her follow-up. It’s a theory that holds water considering that Tom Hooper, who also received a citation from the Director’s Guild for Les Misérables, failed to receive a nomination – his previous effort, The King’s Speech garnered him the Best Director’s Oscar in 2011. But one can’t discount Bigelow’s effort. Zero Dark Thirty is a directorial feat; an ambitious and technically audacious film that relies on Bigelow’s strengths as a director to be fully realized. Her omission remains one of the more startling and disappointing snubs of nominees.
Regardless, the slate of nominees acknowledges the presence of a unique, and frankly welcome, voting body that acknowledges the crucial voices of 2012. Michael Haneke’s nominations for Amour (a picture that will be reviewed in the following week) are particularly savory, given the director’s impressive body of work. While Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master failed to garner a Best Picture or Director (or Original Screenplay) nominations, the picture did manage to secure its share of acting awards – a prospect that looked increasingly dim following meager guild showings.
Strong showings from both Silver Linings Playbook and Life of Pi indicate that both pictures weren’t as soft as one perceived. The two films, along with Lincoln, look to be frontrunners to take the major prize. Having the lion’s share of nominations certainly positions Lincoln as a likely winner for Best Picture and Best Director. But if the slate of nominations proved anything, it’s that not everything is as it seems. Case in point: securing nominations in every acting category and having The Weinstein Company backing the picture, Silver Linings Playbook is very much in the thick of it. Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is also a likely winner in various technical categories, therein perhaps positioning itself Lee’s second Best Director Oscar. It’s Lincoln though, that manages to reconcile both aspects – it’s a film that has its share of acting nominations and technical citations.
While I single out Lincoln, Life of Pi, and Silver Linings Playbook, the Best Picture winner may very well not come from one of the five nominated Best Director’s. The last time it has happened was in 1989 when Driving Miss Daisy won Best Picture without having director Bruce Beresford getting a nomination. Whether it happens again is anyone’s guess, but the possibility of a split is always there. This is where the Golden Globes and various guild results could be telling –populist films like Argo or even Les Misérables could surprise.
It’s still six weeks until the Academy Awards broadcasts. There’s going to be plenty of time to ruminate on potential winners. But as of now, these are my kneejerk predictions:
- Best Picture: Lincoln
- Best Director: Ang Lee, Life of Pi
- Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
- Best Actress: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
- Best Supporting Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
- Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
- Best Adapted Screenplay: Tony Kushner, Lincoln
- Best Original Screenplay: Michael Haneke, Amour
- Best Cinematography: Life of Pi
- Best Costume Design: Anna Karenina
- Best Film Editing: Life of Pi
- Best Makeup and Hairstyling: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
- Best Original Score: Life of Pi
- Best Original Song: Skyfall
- Best Production Design: Anna Karenina
- Best Sound Editing: Skyfall
- Best Sound Mixing: Skyfall
- Best Visual Effects: Life of Pi
- Best Animated Feature: Frankenweenie
- Best Documentary: The Invisible War
- Best Foreign Language Film: Amour